Film: 8263

Social History | 1930 | Sound | B/W

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Synopsis:

A film of real people in the distressed areas, villages and countryside of Britain, with the roles taken by the unemployed men of Pentre, the villagers of Cerney and the officials of the National Council of Social Service.
Two areas, one a derelict industrial South Wales mining town, the other a poor rural village in Gloucestershire attempt to foster community spirit by building village halls. The village of Cerney in Gloucestershire and the town of Pentre in the Rhondda.
Industrial communities and slums. Unemployment - queues at the Labour Exchange. Closed mines in South Wales. Searching slag heaps for coal.
Once the two buildings are completed, men who once had time on their hands find plenty to do in their club hut whilst the village hall is used for dances, physical training (women's institute aerobics!) and all sorts of other social activities, including ladies' country dancing.
At a committee meeting in the men's club hut it is made clear that social service schemes cannot do everything and that, with over a million out of work, the fundamental problems of unemployment have to be addressed.
The film contrasts life on either side of the Bristol Channel. While their is little opportunity for humour in the Welsh community, the villagers in Gloucestershire are light-hearted and provide light relief as they enjoy their whist drives, folk dancing and physical jerks.
A broadcast talk on social service schemes is heard both by a woman (W.I.) in a country village and by an unemployed man in his local coffee shop. Both of them write letters to find out what it is all about. As a result work begins on a the building of an occupational centre in the distressed area and on the conversion of an old barn into a new hall in the village. Government loans via the National Council of Social Service fund these ventures.
Cerney village. Fields. A ploughed field. The Manor House. Cotswold type stone buildings. Two horses harnessed together pull earth riddling machinery as the farmer walks behind. Village church.
Montage of industrial work and smoking chimneys, steam powered hammers. Village of Pentre in the Rhondda Valley, South Wales. Streets of back to back housing. Children in streets. Woman drying up a saucepan in a slum kitchen. Potteries district of Midlands with large kiln-shaped buildings. Row of terraced houses in a South Wales valley filmed through iron railings. Two men shovel coal in a foundry. Railway steam train engine passes camera - it has "LSC Ltd" written on the side. Filmed from ground level we see the feet of two shire horses pass by camera and away. A derelict country barn with a thatched roof and a heavily propped up wall. Auctioneers notice posted on a farm building at Sherston in Wiltshire. Brief montage of World War One explosions. War memorial in a village with a woman tending flowers. Quick pan down. Big Ben at 11 o'clock.
Foundry work with man wearing goggles as he uses small oxy-acetylene welding torch. Three ex-World War One servicemen, all in civilian clothes, but one wearing his medals, busking and begging. One plays accordion, another a trumpet or cornet and the third on crutches, holds open a bag which he shakes for donations. Legless crippled beggar tries to sell matches. New machinery in factories. Unloading crates of Jaffa oranges at the docks. Large stock of wooden crates. Queue at labour exchange as fewer men are needed at work. Man-free automated machinery moves, this being intercut with slowly moving feet of men in labour exchange or dole queue. Sign saying "Ministry of Labour. Employment Exchange". Newspaper headline from October 1929 as stock markets totter and the great Depression begins. Stock market ticker tape reads "Heavy fall in shares". The Wall Street Crash is referred to. Symbolic signs of industry coming to a halt: miners leave pit; wheels stop turning; pit machinery is still; empty coal trucks; man closing gates of canal side building which has a "For Sale" sign on it. Reference to three million unemployed.
Talk of depression now having given way to boom and the start up of new industries. Machinery switched on or speeding up. Control room. Queue of men preparing to clock in. But some unemployment in areas of old industry. Five men walk very slowly as one shakes a box, begging.
Heavy unemployment in South Wales valleys. Slag heaps. Man sitting idly in derelict industrial scene with partially demolished buildings. A few men employed to demolish old works. Terraced street with three shut shops in a row. Idle pit. Men scrabbling on a slag heap for coal. Coal waste being tipped onto coal slag heap. Men look for coal. Man puts bits of coal into a bag as he smokes. Large dust clouds are created as coal is tipped . Man walks past closed gates of coal mine. Small single-decker bus pulls to a halt in the village of south Cerney. Two women prepare to get in. Woman and child stroke tabby and white cat on a windowsill. After seven and a half minutes of introduction the film now moves into the specific and personal part of the film. A woman, Mrs. Harolton, enters church in village to join in the work party of the Women's Institute. Table of ten women are sewing and knitting.
Pleasant Street in Pentre. In Pentre nine out of ten men are unemployed. John Adlam is unemployed and leaves his home. He walks along street. He passes woman scrubbing pavement outside her house. Many old men stand on street corner. He lights a cigarette. John enters local coffee shop - the owner is Italian. Men sit around tables with newspapers. Proprietor makes coffee. Men listen to radio; radio is retuned to a station to a station with an item about unemployment and enforced idleness. Proprietor brings cup and saucer to table. Mrs. Haralton wears an apron and brushes her path. She also listens to her radio which we see in the window. John listens and realises he can help build a social centre. Coffee urn Mrs. Haralton takes a jug to a farm for milk. She talks to farmer about his barn. John enters post office. He licks edge of envelope which he seals. He shows envelope to boy and posts it in post box. Mrs. Haralton writes letter. She lifts child up who posts letter in box. In Pentre, John sits on bench aimlessly tossing a coin in the air. He drops coin and picks it up. Man next to him reads newspaper. John and Mr. Thomas from the grants committee enter a room with the local Pentre committee. One man walks out when he is told Pentre will need to raise £20 itself. In Gloucestershire, a meeting approves the proposal for the conversion of a barn into a village hall. Audience applaud. Committee talk. Woman in audience knits. On man makes an aside to another behind his hand. Woman in audience proposes a whist drive. In Pentre there is snow on the ground. John talks to a man working under his car - he is the secretary of the football club. Home made poster advertising a football match. Footballers run out of hut. Crowd cheer football match. Men count up money.
People enter South Cerney Church for a whist drive. Women play cards. In South Cerney the Treasurer counts £2 10 shillings - with the grant and together with what they already have, this will be enough money. Converting a hall and building another. Construction on site in Pentre. Men study model. Pointing stones with mortar and screwing a door handle onto door.
In Cerney, women carry furniture into newly thatched hall.
The new hall at Pentre. Craft instructors allow men to start all kinds of activities - shoe repair, furniture repairs with a man smoking a pipe.
In South Cerney village hall a pianist turns to a piano and starts playing. A woman's keep fit class stretches and bends. Women look pleased with themselves. Man hammers nail into wall and hangs a picture. Amateur dramatics society is rehearsed. Women practice country dancing. They dance with ribbons and bow to their partners.
In the Pentre occupational centre the men have appointed a committee. The all-smoking committee with john Adlam as its chair propose a children's playground be made, or organising the choir or 'doing physical jerks which seems to be the fashion'. Man from the National council reveals they run an instructional centre at which tuition can be given in all sorts of things. On man takes a negative line - that they will be able to make wireless sets and do physical jerks, but that this is only killing time as all the pits are closed down - men need paid work. John says that doing something is better than nothing. Various shots of occupational centres and village halls. A very modern and large community centre looking very 1930's.
Squalor in South Wales. Unemployed men sitting down chatting. Conclusion is realistic: 'Social service cannot do everything. There are fundamental problems which strike at the very root of our existence. Only by working together with unsparing energy can we hope to solve them.'


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